Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The wormlike larva of a butterfly or moth.
  • n. Any of various insect larvae similar to those of the butterfly or moth.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The larva of a butterfly or moth; leafworm.
  • n. A vehicle with a caterpillar track; a crawler.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The larval state of a butterfly or any lepidopterous insect; sometimes, but less commonly, the larval state of other insects, as the sawflies, which are also called false caterpillars. The true caterpillars have three pairs of true legs, and several pairs of abdominal fleshy legs (prolegs) armed with hooks. Some are hairy, others naked. They usually feed on leaves, fruit, and succulent vegetables, being often very destructive, Many of them are popularly called worms, as the cutworm, cankerworm, army worm, cotton worm, silkworm.
  • n. A plant of the genus Scorpiurus, with pods resembling caterpillars.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Properly, the larva of a lepidopterous insect, but also applied to the larvæ of other insects, such as members of the family Tenthredinidœ, or saw-flies.
  • n. A cockchafer.
  • n. An envious person who does mischief without provocation.
  • n. One who preys upon the substance of another; an extortioner.
  • n. The popular name of plants of the genus Scorpiurus.
  • n. The larva of an Australian lymantriid moth, Teara melanosticta, which forms in columns like the European Cnethocampa processionea.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a large tracked vehicle that is propelled by two endless metal belts; frequently used for moving earth in construction and farm work
  • n. a wormlike and often brightly colored and hairy or spiny larva of a butterfly or moth

Etymologies

Middle English catirpel, catirpeller, probably alteration of Old North French *catepelose : cate, cat (from Latin cattus) + pelose, hairy (from Latin pilōsus; see pilose).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English catirpel, catirpeller, probably from Old Northern French catepelose (Modern French chat + pileux, "hairy cat"), from Late Latin cattus + pilōsus. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The second time I was onstage, I misspelled the word caterpillar and soaked a perfectly good purple skirt with my own urine.

    I'm Perfect, You're Doomed

  • The love of a bird for a caterpillar is a tenuous and passing attachment next to the bond between man and power.

    The Ugly Truth About Government « Isegoria

  • Plants have some pretty impressive defenses, including the ability to swiftly produce volatile chemicals to attract "large predatory insects like dragon flies, which delight in caterpillar meat."

    Rick Astley in a box (link roundup)

  • On one of the few remaining green leaves a caterpillar is feeding, not with the voracious fervour of the newly hatched but with slow deliberation, as if forcing down a few final mouthfuls.

    Country diary: South Uist

  • Moves in caterpillar fashion leaving straight deep track in the sand.

    Oily Snake Plays His Toxic Game

  • Alice’s meeting with the caterpillar is represented entirely by an extended bass clarinet solo with the unsung lyrics projected onto the stage.

    Archive 2007-07-01

  • The slap and the caterpillar were the worst aside from waterboarding.

    Axelrod: Obama "thought very long and hard about" about opening up the CIA interrogation memos.

  • But if they come across a social parasite, they act as if the caterpillar is a lost larva from own colony.

    Parasite Rex

  • * One biologically realistic feature is that the ‘embryology’ of the Chinese junk passes through several intermediate ‘larval’ stages, which are in themselves pleasing creations, just as a caterpillar is a beautiful, working intermediate on the way to a butterfly, which it scarcely resembles at all.

    THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH

  • This latter movement has the appropriate military name caterpillar.

    An Ordinary Soldier

Comments

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  • Is a caterpillar ticklish?
    Well, it's always my belief
    That he giggles, as he wiggles
    Across a hairy leaf.

    - Monica Shannon, 'Only My Opinion'.

    November 8, 2008